John Lennon ‘Mocked’ People with Disabilities as a Student, According to Cynthia Lennon

John Lennon was often an advocate for peace and love alongside Yoko Ono. Still, this Beatles member has been caught being controversial in more ways than one. According to Cynthia Lennon, he was particularly “terrified” of people with disabilities. 

Here’s what we learned from her memoir John.

John Lennon appeared as a founding member of the Beatles

The Beatles' John Lennon being interviewed by journalist Steve Turner of Beat Instrumental magazine
The Beatles’ songwriter John Lennon being interviewed by journalist Steve Turner of Beat Instrumental magazine | Michael Putland/Getty Images

The Beatles took over America with their rock music, famously performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. The group featured the “Fab Four,” comprised of Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison.

Known for his quick wit, Lennon sometimes made snarky comments during live performances, with the Beatles even making political statements with songs like “Get Back.”

“For our last number, I’d like to ask your help,” Lennon said during a performance for the Royal Family. “The people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry.”

John Lennon ‘always reacted badly’ to people with disabilities, according to his ex-wife Cynthia Lennon 

Although the Beatles continued making music through the late 1960s, the group stopped hosting concerts. This was primarily a result of “Beatlemania,” with the band members unable to hear their own instruments over the screaming fans. 

Their final live performance was their 1969 rooftop show at the Apple Corps headquarters at 3 Savile Row as seen in the Disney+ documentary series The Beatles: Get Back.

Part of touring with the Beatles meant meeting fans, including those with disabilities. As noted in Cynthia Lennon’s memoir John, stopping performing meant the end of this “particular discomfort” for her ex-husband.

“John had always reacted badly to disability so for him, this was little short of a nightmare,” she wrote. “In our student days, he’d mocked the disabled and drawn ghoulish cartoons of cripples.” 

“For some reason, disability terrified him, though he could never admit it,” she continued. “It made him feel inadequate and guilty.”

In recent years, Beatles fans noticed “shocking” footage of Lennon behaving poorly for the UK-based TV show It Was Alright in the ’60s. The performance contained a clip of the Beatles member ridiculing disabled people. 

In another video clip, Lennon appeared alongside Yoko Ono, repeatedly saying the n-word and defining its use in the context of his music. 

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John Lennon advocated for peace with songs like ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and ‘Imagine’

However, Lennon is known for his activism, mainly through music. He wrote and released songs like “Imagine” and “Give Peace a Chance.” For his honeymoon with Yoko Ono, they two appeared in their infamous “bed-in for peace.”

The couple also released their holiday hit “Happy Xmas (War Is Over,)” which now holds over 450 million Spotify plays. Music by Lennon (and the Beatles) remains available on most major streaming platforms.